Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beyond Maintenance

Next month I will celebrate my five-year anniversary of maintaining a 100-pound weight loss. It seems like it was just yesterday and yet a lifetime ago. I honestly expected that maintenance would be hard, but I had no idea just how difficult the road beyond would be when the scale hit that magic number, my “goal weight.” For to lose 100 pounds and maintain that loss is not a grand victory in an epic battle, as the world would have you believe. Instead, it is thousands upon thousands of infinitesimal skirmishes, fought and won second by second every day. Or fought and lost second by second every day. The experience of staying lean, it seems, is not unlike being pecked to death by ducks.

I think it’s also a particularly female experience. I’m sure men worry about their weight too, but I don’t think they reach the level of crazy that women do – and I have certainly known crazy when it comes to my weight, both at times when I was lighter and at times when I was heavier. I remember that when my husband first started developing a paunch in his forties, rather than seeing it as a tragedy (as I saw the unwanted flabbiness on my own physique), he joked that his newfound belly was his “power source.” I do not believe that any woman would ever be so self-accepting. The women I know (including me) agonize over every tiny imperfection in our appearance. We berate ourselves for having real, lived-in bodies. We obsess over every small indulgence (chocolate!) and mostly have resigned ourselves to a perpetual state of defectiveness.

Lately though, a little voice in my head has been nagging me, posing a question that I would prefer not to confront. It asks: what could I do in the world, what could I have done already in fact, if weight were not the overriding narrative in my life? What would my life be like if I were not trapped in this endless do loop of diet success and diet failure, defining and judging myself by the size of my dress rather than the size of my impact on the world? Why have I accepted a lifelong preoccupation with a number on a scale when I could have been preoccupied with learning and doing and making the world a better place?

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. But then this is what goes on in my head. The last five years have been an emotional rollercoaster and I’m ready now for some solid ground. I’ve decided that the task for the next five years is to figure out how to live a healthy life (which includes a healthy weight), while also living a life that is about so much more than obsessing over health and weight.

I’m not sure exactly what this means, but I think living in the question is often better than finding the answer anyway.


  1. I do think that weight loss and then maintenance is sort of a full time job as we learn and then apply.

    I shudder when I hear people talk about getting back to their 'real life'.

    It is usually the kiss of death to maintenance.

    I do not think that is what you are saying.

    I think you are saying - I am ready to keep doing what I am doing, but now that I have figured out the ropes, I can start slowly adding back good choices.

    I have been doing that myself the past two years.

    I did not go back to any of my old things. They are a lot of what got me in trouble in the first place -the environment, the people, the tie in to food.

    For myself, I was looking for intellectual. I first started reading again (but not in bathtub with saltines to avoid life) instead only in car with audio books and no food. And then I started adding once a month book discussion groups. I also joined once a week discussion groups. I don't make it once a week, but having that many available means I make it at least once a month.

    I had a long history of volunteer work and I stopped that totally. That also got me in a lot of trouble paying attention to everyone else but me.

    My exercise classes are a lot of socialization, before and after class for a few minutes chat. And sort of the bonding feeling that we did it.

    My choices have been slow, careful and very deliberate. I enjoy what I do, I am around people who lift me, no one is dependent on me.

    1. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want my tombstone to say: "Here lies Sandy, who lost a hundred pounds." I've been unbelievably obsessed with weight for the last five years. It's not fun. It has to be possible to find a way of enjoying life and food without gaining back all the weight. I don't know what that looks like yet.

  2. I hear you. I think the answer is to make slow, careful choices. And not to have everything revolve around food (in my opinion).

    I think that is the problem most of us had in our fat days - EVERYTHING revolved around what we were going to get to eat when we got there. Everything was food based. You can still see it in some bloggers.

  3. And I think it helps not to think of it as a battle. A battle against society or a battle against the food choices that are out there.

    I have seen bloggers spend a lot of time writing about products that are on the market (that are overly processed or made so that we want to eat more or whatever).

    It can all be positive.

    We make our own choices and it really doesn't matter what the rest of society does or doesn't do or what is out there. There has to be two sides to have a battle. And we don't have to play or fight.

    I don't feel like any of that has anything to do with me. It is just every once in a while that something catches me napping (like the restaurant that put sugar in the water to steam veggies).

    1. I think you are right about not seeing it as a battle. I've been doing that a lot. You've given me (no pun intended) food for thought.